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Remote control warfare monthly briefing #07

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12 December 2014

The seventh in a series of monthly briefings from Open Briefing on remote-control warfare, commissioned by the Remote Control Project, has been published today. The briefings cover developments in five key areas or remote warfare: special forces, private military and security companies, unmanned vehicles and autonomous weapon systems, cyber warfare and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

Key stories this month:

  • Special forces: Afghan policy reversal reinstates special forces night raids
  • PMSCs: Historic verdict in Blackwater trial could set precedent
  • UAVs: UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons discusses autonomous unmanned combat air vehicles
  • Cyber: US facing multiple cyber offensives from state and non-state adversaries
  • Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance: Bill designed to heavily restrict NSA domestic surveillance defeated in US Congress.

Other important findings this month:

  • Iranian funded Afghan mercenaries in Syria: Iran has been using cash incentives (reported to range from $500 to $1000 a month) and promises of Iranian residency to recruit several thousand Afghan refugees to fight in Syria’s civil war on the side of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
  • Russian PMSCs: A bill was introduced in the Russian state duma in October proposing to legalise private military and security companies in Russia.  If passed this would allow Russian PMSCs the same tasks as their Western counterparts. It could allow Russia to more easily use such companies as proxies, while distancing the state from any extreme actions private contractors may undertake.
  • Cyber attack on US government contractor: A cyber attack on the US government’s leading security clearance contractor, USIS, went unnoticed for months. The private records of over 25, 000 employees have been compromised raising questions over contractor’s vulnerability and exposure.
  • Half of US-Mexico border monitored by drones: The US monitors half of its border with Mexico using drones, specifically in areas where there are few existing watchtowers, sensors or patrols.  This has not replaced boots on the ground as Border Patrol personnel levels have still doubled since 2000.
  • First UK drone strike against IS: The UK launched its first drone strike against IS in Iraq over the weekend of 8-9th November. The target is reported to be militants planting IEDs in the area of Bayji, north of Baghdad.


The Remote Control project is a project of the Network for Social Change hosted by Oxford Research Group. The project examines changes in military engagement, in particular the use of drones, special forces, private military companies and cyber warfare.

Our publications are circulated free of charge for non-profit use, but please consider making a donation to ORG, if you are able to do so.